Bring out the party hats. This week, in Rupa Marya, et al. v. Warner/Chappel Music, Inc., et al., a California court ruled that Warner/ Chappel Music could not enforce its copyright on the song Happy Birthday To You. The music company, which acquired the copyright in 1988, has been in the habit of collecting about $2 million a year in licencing fees.

The tune we hear at birthday parties across the world was composed in 1893 by Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill, two sisters in Kentucky. The original title was Good Morning To All. The copyright to the song was first bought in 1935 by Clayton F. Summy Publishing Company and has been passed down over the years. But the judge ruled that the copyright applied only to four musical arrangements based on the melody and not to the lyrics.

The legal battle to reclaim Happy Birthday for the public domain was led by Rupa Marya, who fronts her own band, Rupa and the April Fishes, and who also trained as a doctor. The child of Punjbai immigrant parents, Marya sings in English, French, Tzotzil and other languages. She spoke to Scroll in an email interview.

What's the story behind the case and what compelled you to fight the good fight?
We recorded a live concert at our fans' request, to have a live album that captures the energy of our band. So we brought in a recording system to our favorite San Francisco venue and played an incredible show. At midnight, it was my birthday and the audience and band started playing Happy Birthday to You. It was particularly sweet for me because I was pregnant with my son at this performance and was imagining his entry into the world. We decided to include a snippet of it on the physical CD as an embedded track to serve as a little sound document of where and when we were. It's track 38 because I had turned 38.

When I went to release the album, my lawyer informed me I would have to pay $455 for a mechanical license to Warner. I thought this was insane and a gross example of corporate overreach into the commons. I am well aware of biotech companies trying to patent things that exist in nature, like naturally occurring genetic material. Take Monsanto, claiming to "own" seeds and condemning farmers to damning lawsuits if they practise the ancient lifesaving act of seed propagation and saving, as they have been for tens of thousands of years.

I am tired of watching our most sacred things in life being taken over by corporations while governments do nothing and people are so busy trying to make ends meet that they don't have time and energy or feel they have enough knowledge to get up and fight back. So I asked my lawyer if we could fight this. And he said yes. I couldn't have done this without the extraordinary generosity and talent of my lawyer Daniel Schacht. He is the true mastermind behind the case. I wish there were more conscionable lawyers such as him in the world.

How significant do you think this judgment is?
I think it's a first step. It will allow us to seek class action status and then seek damages. I would like Warner to pay back all artists they made pay for the use of the song, which would be over $20 million dollars.

Do you actually like the song, 'Happy Birthday'? Do you have specific memories attached to it?
I think the melody is slightly uninspired and the lyrics are simplistic, however the song is woven deep into our cultural psyche. I can tell you that when our closest friends and family were gathered around my son's cake, shaped in the number "2", this past month, it really touched me to hear their voices sing him Happy Birthday. When do your friends gather around and sing you a song? It's an extremely touching thing to hear the sounds of their voices singing all together. I wish it would happen more often, with other tunes.

What do you think the song means to popular culture and to our daily lives?
There are so few things we share around the world that do not belong to or were not brought to us by a corporation. Works of culture  the great poets' words, the old songs that we know, the images from artists long gone  these works are a kind of invisible thread that connect many people around the globe and make us more familiar to one another, give us a shared language of sorts. While this song can't hold a torch to the poetry of Rumi that has touched millions of people, it is still important in that it is part of a collective culture and should not be used for greedy corporate gain.

Do you think the Hill sisters would have approved of the court's judgment?
They were teachers of children and if they were like other teachers I know, they focused on sharing and creating more benevolence in life. I think the Hill sisters would be ashamed of what Warner was doing to their little creation.

Tell us about your band, Rupa and the April Fishes, and the story behind the name.
We are a global alternative band that plays a wide swath of music from punk, ska and reggae to songs arranged for string quartet. The name comes from the translated idiom in French, "les poissons d'avril' or the April Fools. We just got home from tour in Europe where we had eight musicians on stage, presenting my latest album OVAL. It was delicious and moving. I hope we can bring this album to India. We do an arrangement of Jagjit Singh's Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti that I love. Yes, I did pay for the licence to include that song on our album.

Has your time in India influenced your music in any way?
Yes, I relate the intense joy and celebratory sound of my dance songs to my Punjabi roots. And the poetry of my more intimate songs has been inspired by the depth of poetry in ghazals and readings from India. When we came to the Jodhpur-RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival) in 2011, it was by far one of my most inspired experiences as a performer. I hope we can return to India again soon.

And now for a Rupa and the Fishes song titled Happy Birthday?
It seems appropriate that we head into the studio to just lay it on thick for the next album...